I spent all of Saturday indoors taking an intensive screenwriters course with Gotham’s Writers’ Workshop. Besides for the great advice on style and form, the teacher, Doug Katz, had a great tip: Don’t let the measure of your success fall into other people’s hands.
He asked us how we know if we have a successful screenplay. Everyone started to call out their answers:
People will you pay you a lot of money for it.
An A-list actor will want to be in it.
You’ll win an Oscar.
He shook his head at all of these responses. “You can’t control how much money you’re going to make, or who’s going to want to be in your movie, or if someone gives it an Oscar,” he said. “You can have the greatest script of all time, but you might not meet any of those measures of success. All you can control is if you’re a good writer and you continue to get better. So why not make that your measure of success?”
So much of what we think of success is wrapped in other people’s opinions of us. I see this every day on the subway with women carrying around $10,000 purses. They’re hoping that the label on the purse will make everyone think that they are successful, but they don’t know what I’m thinking. I could be thinking it’s a knock-off, or I might not even notice the label. I could be noticing some toilet paper stuck to her shoe instead. Try as you may, you can’t control what people think of you, so if you want to be successful do the work that makes you feel successful.
p.s. I highly recommend Gotham Writers’ Workshop.
- The Art of Higher Stakes (livingromcom.typepad.com)
- Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Believe You’re Talented (scriptmag.com)
- Are we hung up on getting things published as the only measure of success? (wordznerd.wordpress.com)